Ask most people to finish this phrase and they would answer “gold.” Jerusalem: City of Gold. And this is exactly how our driver from the airport explained Jerusalem to Sol as we drove up the mountain into Israel’s capital city. He said that Jerusalem, while typically called City of Gold, could just as easily be called City of White, since all of the buildings and houses are made of white, Jerusalem stone. However at certain times of the day, when the sun hits the buildings, they look golden. As I was listening to this description, it occurred to me that describing Jerusalem as gold or white or any color was not ideal for someone who is blind, who has never known colors.
So, how do I finish the phrase so it’s relevant and meaningful to Sol? Firstly, I think it’s important to describe the geography of the region. Sol can feel the upward incline as we ascend into Jerusalem and so we discussed how Jerusalem is built on a hill, and surrounded by hills, that it is anything but flat. Secondly we discussed the various neighborhoods of Jerusalem, the Old City versus haMercaz (city center) versus San Simon, the neighborhood where Ramah’s “home base” is located. Sol quickly noted as we settled into our beds that night, how quiet it is. I explained that the neighborhood of San Simon, while still inside the city of Jerusalem, is far from haMercaz and busy streets like Emek Rafaim. Next I explained Jerusalem’s weather patterns, with the desert to the south and the Golan to the north, temperatures on the mountainous Jerusalem tend to be hot during the day, but cooler at night. All of these are way that Sol can personally connect with Jersualem, and yet “City of Warm-Days-Cool-Nights” doesn’t seem to have the same ring to it.
As we drove out of Jerusalem the next day to start our adventures in the Golan, I started thinking about “gold” not as the color, but as the precious metal. Rather than using it as a descriptor, we can use the word “gold” to convey how beloved Jerusalem is. This is a city whose name derives from the word “shalem” meaning “peace or wholeness” but has been the scene for so much bloodshed. And yet we still cherish it, above all other cities in the world. Jerusalem is what we have always wanted, but not always had, and never taken for granted. That is a concept anyone can relate to.